Lost history: Groucho Marx died on August 19, 1977

August 19, 2013

1958 Publicity photo of Groucho Marx from the television program You Bet Your Life.  NBC Television-NBC Photo/Photographer:  Elmer Holloway

1958 Publicity photo of Groucho Marx from the television program You Bet Your Life. NBC Television-NBC Photo/Photographer: Elmer Holloway

36 years ago?  Grouch Marx died on August 19, 1977? 

cropped version of Image:Grouchoicon.jpg - &qu...

The man became an icon, though too few know the great history behind the icon. “Self-made caricature of Groucho Marx” Wikipedia image

 

That means that not only have your high school history students probably never seen much, or anything, of Groucho Marx and his comic genius; it means their parents don’t know him, either.

What a great tragedy.

Groucho Marx brought genius to American comedy films, to radio, and then to television.  His genius was of a sort that does not age, but remains fresh to audiences of today — get a group of teenagers to view Duck Soup or A Day at the Races and you’ll find them laughing heartily at even some of Marx’s more cerebral jokes.  It is symbolic that the films that brought writer Norman Cousins to laughter, and a lack of pain, were Marx Brothers movies (in the day when one had to rent a projector to show the film, long before VCR).  Cousins went on to a grand second career talking about hope in healing, starting with the book, Head First: The Biology of Hope and the Healing Power of the Human Spirit.  I recommend these films to anyone seriously injured or ill, or recovering.  We got VHS, and then DVD copies of several of the films when our kids were ill, with great effect.

Groucho Marx should be in the pantheon of great Americans, of the 20th century, if not all time, studied by children in high school, for history and for literature purposes.

Groucho’s been gone for 36 years, and we are much poorer for his passing.

More:

Groucho grills Ray Bradbury and a woman named Leticia on You Bet Your Life in a 1955 episode:

English: Groucho Marx & anonymous blogging

“I intend to live forever, or die trying.” ― Groucho Marx (Wikipedia image)


Date coincidences: Happenstance or omen?

October 16, 2012

In the approximately 33 minutes Texas curriculum standards allow to teach the Declaration of Independence, I frequently slip in some biography to help students chunk the knowledge.  Of course, biography for the Declaration includes Thomas Jefferson.  If one talks of Jefferson, especially with limited time, one is obligated to relate the story of the friendship of Jefferson with John Adams, which descended into partisan squabbling by 1796, and outright enmity in the election of 1800.  Then one relates how they were essentially tricked into resuming their friendship, and their correspondence (which makes good DBQs for pre-AP and AP classes), and the always touching story of their deaths, both on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Then a student asks about divine intervention in history.  I explain that history is so rich, one can find coincidences on almost every day of the calendar.  For two examples, consider the births of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, hours or minutes apart on February 12, 1809; the births of Mark Twain and Winston Churchill on the same date (November 30), and their love of whiskey and cigars.

These coincidences often seem eerie, or pre-ordained, and that is enough of a hook to get that chunk of history into the minds of students so they remember them, or to compare the lives or events involved, to sharpen their critical skills.  (Ha!  Then just try to dissuade high school students from the eerie or pre-ordained notion; coincidences?  Not to the non-critical-thinking high schooler . . . or too many voters.)

So I was interested to find, and it made me smile, that Mahatma Gandhi and Groucho Marx share a birth date, October 2 (Gandhi in 1869, Marx in 1890).  That date was also the birthday of the comic strip we know as “Peanuts,” in 1950.  (Does a piece of literature, especially a comic strip, have a “birthday?”)

BLAHS Award, copyright Mark Sackler at Millennium Conjectures

BLAHS Award, created by Mark Sackler at Millennium Conjectures

I learned that following a link to the blog of Mark Sackler, who shares the birthday — exactly with Charlie Brown, and the day with Marx and Gandhi.

Following the link over there, to the Millennium Conjectures™, I also learned Mr. Sackler awarded Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub a BLAHS Award, for having a funny name.

Hey, any attention is good attention, right?

I also found there some hope that, at least in some alternative universe, I might be getting a good night’s sleep.

I wonder whether there is any photograph of Groucho Marx and Mahatma Gandhi together.  (Neither of them seemed to be using their given first name, you’ll note . . .)

More:


Marxism from Republicans? Sad, but true . . .

July 12, 2011

. . .  Groucho Marxism.

(From Horsefeathers; longer version of entire scene, here.)

The U.S. House of Representatives scheduled a vote today to force light bulb manufacturers to keep manufacturing bulbs the market has rejected — Marxist socialism at its apex! — in order to overturn energy conservation standards signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007.

ThinkProgress explains:

Lately it seems that the House Republican leadership is against everything that isn’t pre-approved by Big Oil or the Tea Party. Perhaps the most outlandish example of this Groucho Marx approach to public policy is today’s vote on the BULB Act, H.R. 2417. It would repeal the energy efficiency standards for light bulbs established in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, or EISA, P.L. 110-140. It would also prevent California from setting its own light bulb efficiency standards. The original author of the provision is House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI), who is now supporting the repeal of his own idea after conservatives attacked it along with other clean energy programs.

EISA, with Rep. Upton’s efficiency measure, passed the House in 2007 by a bipartisan vote of 319-100, with support from 49.7 percent of Republicans who voted and 98 percent of Democratic votes. President George W. Bush signed it into law.

Afterwards, Rep. Upton bragged in a press release, “Upton Measure to Upgrade Energy Efficiency Standards for all Light Bulbs Now Law” . . .

Mark Twain observed that it takes just one man of conscience to stand up to a mob and frustrate stupid mob action.  Fred Upton is not that man of conscience, alas.

Meanwhile, PopVox has a poll on the bill.  Go on over there and vote “no,” meaning you wish to keep the conservation standards.

Tip of the old scrub brush to ThinkProgress via Jennsmom.


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